Summary:Fullerton’s rural funding arm wanted to improve the efficiency and productivity of their field force while dealing with rural customers. Read to know how they did it.
Dabok is a rural village in Rajasthan, less than a half hour from Udaipur. You would think that the families there have no access to financial systems or an ability to participate in the economy. But it isn't so. The villagers can avail loans for rural livelihood advancement, rural housing finance, and financing for various rural micro finances—all thanks to the rural funding arm of Fullerton India.
But how did a company with over 7000 employees, 400 branches across 600 towns and cities that provides financial solutions to over 35000 villages achieve this feat? Well, the answer rang wide and clear: Technology enabled business processes.
Since the company's rural business inception in 2007, it has invested immensely on technology to improve the efficiency of its field force. For instance, they go to collect their weekly installments from their rural customers in Dabok. Fullerton’s rural model has a number of group lending concepts and required the field officers to be available at a particular time to meet the customers.
"Automating the field staff in the rural space has been at the core of Fullerton's rural business since its inception. We have been keen to deploy and use automation tools on the field," says Samir Khare, CIO, Fullerton India Credit Company. Therefore, the company deployed biometric-based, point of interaction devices for their field force to capture fingerprints, collect weekly installments and give manual receipts to its rural customers.
For instance, Fullerton has centers where its rural customers gather to meet the field officer to submit their weekly installments and authenticate biometric fingerprints using the point-of-interaction devices once in a week. The field officer had to make a visit to five centers in a day. Without these devices, it would take the field officer about an hour to meet all customers and complete the tasks at each center.
But the company wanted to improve the automation process, and in turn, increase the efficiency of their field force. Therefore, the company improvised on their existing automation process. "We decided to deploy android-based tablets and mobile devices for the field staff because we believed the capability of a smart device could be leveraged to give more value to the customer and users," says Khare.
We chose android-based tablets over iOS devices because of cost ineffectiveness and Windows-based tablets because of lack of device options. The android-based devices facilitate the entire basic functionality of what we want to deliver on the field. The mobile app deployed on the devices made the biometric fingerprint authentication much easier. The field officer was able to track the attendance of the number of customers attending the weekly meetings.
For instance, only the absentees were marked instead of the people present. The app would automatically mark the people present (which were larger in number) and the field officer would spend less time in ticking off the absentees. The device would also automatically generate the payment receipt of the weekly installments paid by the customers instead of the field officer manually creating the receipts—which used to consume more time earlier. “Today, we have the ability to do much more as compared to the previous device which was only a transaction device,” says Khare.
The company has deployed over 1500 tablets for the field officers across India and another 1000 are being rolled out. Since the deployment, on an average, the field officer efficiency in terms of number of centers visited in a day doubled. It enables the field officer to wrap up meetings in 30 minutes instead of the earlier 60 minutes.
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Once all the visits to the centers is over, the field officer goes to the branch catchment area and the tablet synchronizes the data and pushes it to the central system, and the customer's loan account in a matter of five minutes. This process brings in a lot more control and error-free transaction. Earlier, the field officer would submit the data to the branch officer who would then update the data to the core lending system which would increase chances of error.
“The new design helped the company relook their entire digital operations and helped us enable cost-efficient and proficient operations. Today, a lot of people have initiated biometric authentication on devices however, our systems have additionally proven interoperability across biometric hardware and device operating systems from the time we commenced automating the field force operations,” says Khare.
Technology has truly empowered Dabok, and many such rural villages and they can now avail the benefits of microfinance hassle-free. By 2017, the firm expects about 25 percent of its loans to originate from rural areas.